Meno's Paradox

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Meno's Paradox

By | October 2001
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What is Meno's Paradox? First, who is Meno? The Meno is one of the earlier Platonic writings, which include Socrates and which look to try to define an ethic, in this case virtue. Meno himself is seemingly a man who is greedy for wealth, greedy for power, ambitious, and a back-stabber who tries to play everything to his own advantage.

Meno starts by questioning Socrates. Can virtue be taught? Socrates says to Meno, well, what makes a virtue a virtue. Meno comes to the borrowed point that virtue is "to find joy in beautiful things and have power". Socrates retorts by saying "do you think men desire just good things?" While explaining themselves they came upon what becomes Meno's Paradox. Is virtue something learned and can we learn things without already knowing them?

Socrates defends the philosophy that if a man can recall one fact only, as long as he does not get tired of searching for it, then searching and learning are as a whole, a recollection. Meno does not understand this argument. Socrates uses a discussion with a Greek boy you explain this to Meno. "Do you know that I square figure is like this", Socrates asks. "I do" the boy replies. He then asks, "Is a square is a four sided figure with equal sides?" Yes, he replies. Socrates questions the size, the lines and comes to asking that if the figure is two feet this way and one foot that way then the line would really be two feet. The boy agrees. Now if its also two feet the other way, then it would be four feet total. The boy agrees. Then he adds a figure the same size, this would make it eight feet. Boy agrees. He asks the boy to explain how long each side of the wall is. He responds with twice the length. Socrates then tells Meno that he didn't teach anything; just questioned until the boy reached the answer he wanted.

This brought them back to virtue. It is a type of knowledge; clearly able to be taught says Meno's. They both question virtue. Does is make us...